The TV Column

NBC hoping for Wayans magic with new Marlon

NBC’s new sitcom Marlon stars (from left) Essence Atkins, Marlon Wayans, Amir O’Neil and Notim Taylor. The comedy premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
NBC’s new sitcom Marlon stars (from left) Essence Atkins, Marlon Wayans, Amir O’Neil and Notim Taylor. The comedy premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Marlon Wayans is a talented, versatile stand-up comedian, actor, writer and producer and a member of a gifted family.

We loved him on In Living Color, when he was only 20, and on The WB sitcom The Wayans Bros. (1995-99), where he played alongside his brother, Shawn.

Granted, Shawn and Marlon's White Chicks (2004) was goofy, but you can't win them all. Will Marlon's latest sitcom be a winner or loser? Who knows? I predicted blackish wouldn't last and it's a huge hit.

Marlon debuts at 8 p.m. Wednesday on NBC. A second episode follows at 8:30. The tag line: "She's raising two kids and one Marlon."

Wayans' fans will enjoy the show, as will those who prefer nonthreatening, predictable, formulaic sitcoms. NBC is billing it as "an update to the classic family comedy," but the pilot breaks no new comedic ground as it slogs through the requisite exposition.

I watched the second episode as well and Marlon will not be mistaken for the new blackish.

Don't get me wrong. There were a couple of scenes where I laughed out loud. But it seemed as if they were conceived ahead of time and the rest of the episode cobbled together to get us to the few moments where Marlon could shine.

But kudos to any network that highlights the underused talents of black actors as series' leads, albeit in the middle of August, a month before the new season begins.

NBC tells us the sitcom is loosely inspired by the real life of the 45-year-old Wayans, who has never married, but has two kids with his ex-girlfriend, Angelica Zachary.

In the sitcom, Wayans portrays "internet superstar" (he has 6 million followers) Marlon Wayne. His popular online blog is titled "The Marlon Way."

He must be doing well, because not only does his ex-wife live in a nice suburban house, but Marlon's bachelor home is relatively posh as well.

Essense Atkins (Are We There Yet?, Smart Guy) plays Marlon's attractive, well-organized former wife, Ashley Wayne. She may be his ex, but the split was evidently amicable because, as a friend points out, Marlon spends more time at her house now than when they were married.

Together, Marlon and Ashley have two young children, Zachery (Amir O'Neil) and Marley (Notim Taylor). The kids go to the private and exclusive Oakley Academy.

It's obvious that Marlon still loves Ashley, although it was she who ended the marriage. His primary concern now is co-parenting his kids. That includes doling out advice that is frequently inappropriate.

Sample humor in a conversation with his daughter:

"You're being bullied? But you go to an all-white private school! Black girls can't be bullied by little white girls. White people are genetically predisposed to fear black people. [Pause] Google it!

"If you black up, they gonna back up."

And later, Marlon's brother Stevie (Diallo Riddle) drops by:

"Marlon, your cable's broken. The only channel you're getting is the Oprah Winfrey Network. If I have to watch another Tyler Perry movie, I may become a racist."

That's about as "edgy" as it gets in Marlon. If you want edgy, discerning black comedy, try Donald Glover's Atlanta on FX.

Naked. In related news, Wayans co-wrote and stars in the original Netflix romantic comedy Naked, which debuted Friday and is currently available on the streaming service.

In the film, Wayans stars as a guy who is about to get married, but ends up naked in an elevator with no memory of how he got there. Oh, yeah. He's also stuck in a time loop a la Groundhog Day.

The movie also stars Regina Hall, Dennis Haysbert and Loretta Devine.

No diversity. The lack of TV diversity came up (again) at the recent Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. On the hot seat this time were Kelly Kahl, CBS' new entertainment president, and Thom Sherman, the new CBS senior executive vice president for programming.

The critics reminded them that for the second season in a row, no women landed the lead role of any new CBS series.

"We had six pilots with female leads, but those pilots were not felt to be as good as some of the other pilots," Sherman explained. He quickly added, "That had nothing to do with the female leads."

The spokesmen then pointed out that the new fall drama S.W.A.T. will have a black star (Shemar Moore), as does the returning Superior Donuts (Jermaine Fowler).

In addition, the midseason drama Instinct will star Alan Cumming, who is gay. He'll portray a gay former CIA operative.

"There is change happening on CBS," Kahl claimed.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 08/15/2017